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In the press

'Return of the living dead'

A former president and a former presidential hopeful dominate: Jacques Chirac and Dominique Strauss-Kahn. They are both mired in scandal. Chirac, at 78, will not be in court today on medical grounds for the start of his trial for alleged corruption. And Strauss-Kahn is back home in what a political rival calls the return of the "living dead". That's the focus for the French press review, Monday 5th September 2011.

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Le Figaro leads on a photo of Jacques Chirac looking frail as he rests his hand on a security guard. It headlines : “La maladie de Jacques Chirac dénature son procès”. That has two meanings: one, his illness changes the nature of his trial and, two, it is nothing without him.

Chirac’s trial on allegations of corruption opens today with his lawyers arguing he is too unwell to attend. Plaintiffs say that’s a "manoeuvre": a trick, a manipulation.

Le Figaro says this is a painful time for Chirac’s wife, Bernadette, and his children. They have had to choose between letting him appear in court knowing his health is not up to it, and making the extent of his health difficulties public.

The paper says opposition Socialist politicians Ségolène Royal and François Hollande “understand his absence but believe the trial is legitimate”. An opposition Europe Ecology politician, meanwhile, tells Le Figaro: “The richer and more powerful you are, the more you can escape justice”

The free paper “20 minutes” is asking: “Is this a phoney trial?” That’s a reference to the case itself which concerns phoney jobs Chirac is alleged to have created during his time as Mayor of Paris in the 70s, 80s and 90s.

Another French politician with the “scandal” label, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, also features heavily. Le Parisien-Aujourd’hui-en-France headlines: “Strauss-Kahn’s strategy”. It says his return to Paris from New York on Sunday was carefully orchestrated and is part of scrupulous efforts by his team to resurrect his political career.

It quotes a member of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s team saying Strauss-Kahn’s reappearance in Paris is the return of the “living dead”, affirming that while Strauss-Kahn is dead politically, in personal terms, he could drag the Socialist Party down.

A cartoon in Le Parisien-Aujourd’hui-en-France shows Strauss-Kahn asking: “If I plead memory loss like Chirac could I possibly run as presidential candidate?”

One of France’s regional papers, Le Progrés, in Lyon, looks at both men saying that they belong to France’s past. It is urging a closer look at the problems France has today. And another paper, Le Courrier Picard in northern France, remarks: “between Jacques Chirac losing his memory and Dominique Strauss-Kahn who realises his memory will be called upon, France has two unrivalled talents in dealing with the justice system”.

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